New spots for Australian fossil leopard

An interview with the CEO of Australia's Stanwell Corporation, which runs a 1400 MW coal-fired power station and has decided to move into clean forms of energy.

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Can the fossil fuel leopard really change its spots? Australia's Stanwell Corporation in the state of Queensland thinks so. The government owned corporation, which runs a 1400 MW coal-fired power station, has decided to move into clean forms of energy (Windpower Monthly, January 1999).

"In essence, I guess Stanwell didn't want to just be one of the generators competing for volume at low price in a competitive market," says CEO Ted Scott. Claiming the company has "a social conscious," Scott says Stanwell will generate 25% of its revenues from non-coal renewable sources within five years -- up from 5% now through two mini hydro schemes. Half the increase will come from gas and half from renewable projects that include hydro, wind, biomass and solar resources. As well as its big coal plant near Rockhampton, Stanwell today operates two hydro plant with a combined output of 132 MW and the 34 MW Mackay Gas Turbine for emergency back-up.

"We believe selling electricity as an undifferentiated commodity is a tough game," says Scott. "Other players can do that better. "The company's new green projects and ethics are a large part of the choices the company will make, and Scott expects the response by government to greenhouse issues will "create a growing market for green energy for which people will pay a premium."

The board decision to move in a cleaner direction has been "easy to sell to employees," says Scott. He describes the 200 strong workforce as "reasonably well educated, young, and concerned about environmental issues." The company has just won a showcase grant to install up to 5 MW of solar thermal electric generation at the site of the Stanwell coal-fired power station.

With assets of A$1.6 billion and revenues last year approaching A$400 million, Scott says Stanwell is relatively small, innovative and therefore "light on our feet," which allows the company to undertake small projects -- particularly renewable projects -- that other generators might find difficult to do. Those projects will undoubtedly start to change Stanwell's spots, but whether it really is a different animal in the jungle of the new competitive market is a question only time will answer.

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